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B'More Green
An environmental blog for everyday living
Towson Run contains bacterial contamination, Balto. Co. officials say

Baltimore County officials say testing has shown intermittent instances of E. coli contamination in Towson Run.

A public works spokesman said Friday that the county health department recently posted warnings signs at a portion of the run, between Abbey View Way and Gatehouse Drive in West Towson, telling people to avoid contact with the stream. The bacteria levels have varied widely but have sporadically been elevated, he said.

The stream flows north through Sheppard Pratt and Towson University, near the Rodgers Forge and Armagh Village communities.

Utility crews have not yet been able to detect the cause of the contamination. Officials are looking into the possibility of broken sewer lines and poorly installed plumbing fixtures, among other potential reasons. The county also recently hired an environmental engineering firm to help address the problem, they said.

alisonk@baltsun.com

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EPA moves to toughen smog limits

The Obama administration announced Wednesday a long-anticipated move to tighten limits on smog-forming pollution, declaring that despite improvements in air quality in Maryland and nationwide, millions of vulnerable adults and children risk illness and even premature death from inhaling currently acceptable levels.

"Ground-level ozone or smog is a dangerous pollutant, and it can have very serious consequences on our families' health," Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said in unveiling her agency's proposal to reduce the current standard for how much ozone in the air is safe to breathe.

The announcement was criticized by industry groups and conservatives, who said it would drive up energy costs and hurt the economy. Republicans in Congress — already gunning for the EPA over its moves to regulate climate-altering carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants — have vowed to block it on ozone regulations as well.

The issue has particular importance in...

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O'Malley administration sets out path to fracking in Md.

Capping more than three years of study, the O'Malley administration declared Tuesday that hydraulic fracturing for natural gas can be done safely in Western Maryland, but only after regulations are tightened to reduce air and water pollution and protect residents from well contamination, noise and other disruptions associated with an anticipated drilling boom.

The state Departments of Environment and Natural Resources released a draft final report proposing new rules for "fracking," as the drilling technique is often called, and recommending legislation to stiffen penalties for spills and to levy a tax on any gas extracted to address impacts on affected communities.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, who had effectively blocked fracking in Western Maryland by ordering a study of its impacts, said in a statement that the report sets a "gold standard" for balancing the risks and rewards of the controversial drilling technique. Fracking has reaped a gas bonanza nationwide but also stirred controversy...

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Sewer main malfunction dumps overflow into Deep Creek Lake

A Thursday morning sewage spill in McHenry dumped more than 1,700 gallons of overflow into Deep Creek Lake, Garrett County Department of Public works officials.

The department's Utilities Division reported that around 10:17 a.m. officials received a call about a sewer leak at the 1400 block of Deep Creek Drive. Officials found sewage running from a four-inch pipe from a grinder basin in a yard.

Officials said that an anti-siphon valve in the grinder basin and the check valve at the sewer main had failed. The overflow was contained and the valve was shut off, officials said. The sewage flow reached the lake shore, and officials estimate the overflow at 1,740 gallons.

Officials summoned the county health department, the state Department of Natural Resources and Maryland Department of the Environment. The affected area was cleaned, hydrated lime was applied to the area and water samplings were collected, officials said.

Until the results show normal water levels, sampling will continue to...

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Woodbine farm with illegal mulching operation agrees to sanctions

The owner of a farm in Woodbine that neighbors had charged was the site of an illegal mulch manufacturing operation agreed Tuesday to pay a fine and cease mulching until further notice. 

Erich Bonner, who owns Oak Ridge Farm, a tree nursery on Woodbine Road, says that there has been no mulching on his property in months. 

Still, he and the county agreed to a consent order Tuesday stating that his farm, which is under a preservation easement, was in violation of zoning regulations in February, when a county inspector visited the property and observed mulching operations underway. 

Bonner will pay a $1,000 fine and agree not to make mulch on his land until a review of the county's mulch-related zoning regulations is complete. 

Those regulations, which were updated last July during the once-a-decade comprehensive zoning process, require owners of preserved agricultural land to obtain permission, in the form of a conditional use, from the county in order to make mulch on their property....

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Sisters awarded $5 million in lead-paint suit

A Baltimore jury awarded $5 million Friday to a pair of sisters who claimed they suffered permanent brain damage from ingesting flaking lead paint in a rented West Baltimore home two decades ago.

The judgment against Stewart Levitas, a former president of a greater Baltimore landlords group, concluded a five-day Circuit Court trial of a lawsuit brought by Tajah and Tynae Jeffers, with Judge Alfred Nance presiding.

The sisters, now 22 and 18 years old, contended in their suit that they were poisoned by ingesting dust or flakes of deteriorating lead-based paint in a house in the 2100 block of Hollins St., which was owned at the time by Levitas. The elder sister was 2 years old in 1994 when their mother moved in, and the younger was not yet born, according to Nicholas Szokoly, one of their lawyers.

The plaintiffs' lawyers presented evidence during the trial that the home had lead-based paint and that it was peeling or flaking in places while the family lived there until 1998.

Levels of lead...

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